The Hopeful Rebirth of The Rockaway Beach Branch

Top 4 Reasons to Reopen These Tracks

1) Half Hour Commute from Ozone Park to Penn Station

Don't take my word for it, here's a timetable from 1962. A train took only 22 minutes to go from Penn station to Park Land South, and only 10 more minutes to get to Ozone Park. A commute time like that would be an absolute game changer for neighborhoods whose current commute time is easily double that.

2) Potential for Express service from Penn & GCT to JFK

With the eventual opening of East Side Access, a new rail connection could bring commuters along this route directly to JFK. We could correct the mistakes of the past and significantly improved commute times for thousands of New Yorkers and tourists per day who are traveling abroad.

3) Reduced Congestion & Reliance on Buses along the Woodhaven Corridor

The woodhaven boulevard corridor is a disaster of traffic. As Ray Cevoli pointed out in this article, rapid transit along this route would reduce traffic deaths, and improve the overall health of the community via better air quality from reduced auto emissions.

4) The cost is nothing compared to SAS, ESA, the new WTC Path Station or the 7 Extension.

Most estimates peg the total cost of repairing this entire route at less than 1 billion dollars. If managed correctly, it could be closer to a half billion.

The simple fact is, these tracks never, ever should have been closed. Today, the right of way is actively being threatened by a group that wants to turn the right of way into a Highline style park. Queens doesn't need one more park that won't be maintained. We need real transit solutions.

Witnessing History

In 1962, the Long Island Railroad was still a privately owned company that was in bankruptcy. To cut costs, The Rockaway Beach Branch (running from the LIRR mainline at Rego Park, to the Rockaways) was shut down. Today, we have an opportunity to fix one of the biggest government transportation policy failures of the 20th century. Much time has past - but the tracks still exist. They represent an unobstructed corridor that can be rebuilt to provide faster commuting, decreased congestion, and better air quality to tens of thousands of New Yorkers.

The Rockaway Beach Branch was one of the only north-south rail corridors in Queens. It was shut down in two phases. The tracks south of Ozone Park were closed in 1956 after a fire destroyed the wooden trestle across Jamaica Bay (these tracks were sold to the MTA, which reused them for today's A subway train to Rockaway). The tracks from the LIRR mainline in Rego Park to Ozone Park were abandoned in 1962. It is extremely important to note that at the time, the LIRR was a privately held company with significant financial troubles. The MTA would not control the LIRR until 1966. Had the Rockaway Beach Branch not been shut down 4 years earlier, it would likely still be an operating railroad. An entire swath of southeast Queens would not have become entirely dependent on automobiles, and the JFK air train might have instead been built as an extension of this route. If that had happened, we would have a one seat ride from Manhattan to the airport - significantly reducing NYC's dependency on polluting taxis and buses.

History, unfortunately, is often unkind to the future. An entire generation has needlessly suffered, all because our forefathers were too short sighted to keep an important rail corridor open for a mere 4 more years.

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